It’s 1995 and we discover Under-matron Patterson didn’t have a happy time as a schoolgirl.
By Tara Patterson
“And that gymslip looks too short, Patterson,” snapped sixth form prefect Jayne Turner. “Don’t you know the rules? I think we ought to check. On your knees, sprog, hands on your head!”
Fifteen year old Tara Patterson knelt down on the hard dormitory corridor floor. As she knelt, she saw a smirk on Jayne’s face. She hated the way this prefect picked on her. ‘And why is it always me?’ She thought.
“Just as I thought, it’s too short,” said Jayne laughing. “Your hem should touch the floor when you kneel down. I’ve got just the job for you, up you get.”
B-but, it would if my hands weren’t on my head,” pleaded Tara as she stood up. “And I must have had a bit of a growth spurt. Look, can’t you let me off? It’s half term next week. I will get my mum to get me a new one in the holidays.”
“Oi you! No backchat,” growled Jayne’s fellow prefect, Laura Smith, as she grabbed and pulled down on one of Tara’s brunette French plaits. “You said this sprog needed teaching a lesson about respect. You were right, Turner, she is a cheeky little sod.”
“Hold her there, Laura,” ordered Jayne. “I’m going to get a plimsoll. We’ll teach her alright.”
Tara tried to turn her head to see where Jayne had gone, but she couldn’t move her head. Laura pulled harder on her plait; soon she heard a door banging shut.
“On your knees, Patterson. Bend over those steps. You know what to do,” commanded Jayne.
Laura released her grip and pushed Tara down. Tara knelt on the bottom of the two steps that lead from the bathrooms and Matron Taylor’s surgery up to the corridor by her room. Her elbows rested on the hard corridor floor. She clenched her fist, bit on her hand and closed her eyes.
“Stop right there, that’s enough! Stand up against the wall, all of you!” Matron Taylor’s voice boomed out.
The three girls all jumped with shock. As she stood, Tara instinctively bent down and pulled up her navy blue knee socks. The matron looked at all three of them in turn.
“I have heard everything that has gone one out here, disgraceful! What the devil is going on?”
Jayne was smirking as she spoke.
“Patterson here has broken a few uniform rules, Matron. And she has shown us some disrespect as prefects. She has been cheeky to us again. We were just giving her a reminder of how she should behave. It’s our right as prefects, Ma’am.”
As the prefect spoke, Tara started to cry.
“That’s not quite what I heard, ladies, is it?” Retorted the Matron as she looked down on Jayne. She could feel her blood boiling. “I think Miss Hapwood ought to hear about this. Now, for the moment, I suggest that you both find something a little more constructive to be doing with your time. There are plenty of A level revision classes on tonight or perhaps you both ought to be in the library studying. Your exams are approaching and fast. Now get out of my sight before my anger gets the better of me and I do something I might regret.”
The two prefects sheepishly walked up the two steps and disappeared down the corridor. Matron Taylor gestured Tara into her surgery and closed the door behind them.
“How long has this been going on, Tara?” Asked the Matron sympathetically.
“Ages, Ma’am,” began Tara. “But it’s got a lot worse since Christmas. Those two are always picking on me; as if I don’t get enough stick from the others about my glasses.”
“You had better tell me what happened,” said the Matron as she offered Tara a box of tissues.
“I had only come up to change into my leotard and track suit,” sniffed Tara. “I’ve got Gymnastics club this evening. Smith and Turner cornered me when I went from my room to the loo before I got changed, and gave me a uniform inspection. They are always finding something that I have done wrong. This time it was because I wasn’t wearing my blazer; it’s in my room. And the length of my gymslip, it’s not too short is it, Ma’am? If it’s not that, then they make me do their domestics for them. They treat me like their personal skivvy at times. Turner always seems to find a reason to slipper me.”
Matron sighed she could see the distress and aguish in Tara’s eyes.
“They are bullies, Tara, cowards. You shouldn’t have to put up with this. What has happened to you is very serious. I’m going to report today’s incident to Miss Hapwood. As deputy headmistress, she is much better placed to sort this than I. She may ask to speak to you too. I know you don’t always see eye to eye with Miss Hapwood, but just be open with her and she will help.”
With that, Tara broke down in floods of tears. Matron realised Tara needed comfort; she opened her arms and hugged Tara while she sobbed loudly into her apron.
* * *
“When you find Smith and Turner can you get them to report immediately to my study? Thank you, Mrs Londsborough.”
As Miss Hapwood put down her phone there was a knock on the study door. Jennifer recognised Matron Taylor’s knock and cheerfully called out: “Come in, Meryl, it’s open.”
As Matron Taylor entered the study her colleague smiled and gestured at the kettle on the top of the bookcase by the window.
“It’s just boiled, if you want a coffee. Thank you for coming, I wanted to get your take on last night’s bullying incident before Smith and Turner arrive. I’ve just spoken with young Patterson; she still seems quite distressed. Not her usual mischievous self, is she?”
Matron made her coffee and sat down.
“It’s really shook her, Jennifer,” began Matron. “Those two gave her quite a going over last night. They seem to think that as prefects they rule that corridor.”
Miss Hapwood thought for a moment before she spoke.
“You know Patterson often reminds me a lot of you at that age Meryl. Full of life and always getting into scrapes. She is normally as tough as old boots, certainly when she is being punished, but this whole business has pushed her over the edge.”
“I know what you mean, Jennifer. I’d sooner see Tara in front of me in trouble than how she was last night. She cried her heart out. Normally she just dusts herself down and carries on.”
The deputy headmistress frowned and took off her glasses. Meryl thought she noticed a few grey hairs in her friend’s blonde locks.
“I’ve been thinking as well that our prefects have too much power. This tradition of them being able to slipper the younger pupils, well it’s getting too much, and it’s got to stop. In the wrong hands the system is open to abuse. As seems the case with this incident.
“And who made them prefects?” Asked Matron as she raised her eyebrows.
“Not through choice,” snapped Miss Hapwood. “Outside pressures, I’m afraid, from the Head and the trustees, and Turner’s uncle is a trustee. But they won’t be prefects for much longer, I can assure you of that. Look, It’s a situation that has bothered me for a while and let’s face it Meryl I was beastly to you when I was a prefect.”
Matron thought back for a moment. Miss Hapwood was right; many of the prefects often abused their power. For a brief moment she remembered the fear and loathing she once had of the woman who was now her best friend.
Miss Hapwood looked at some notes on her desk.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that the main offender is Turner. Smith is just a sheep, a hapless follower, easily lead, and she has changed for the worse since she started hanging around with Turner.”
With that there was a gentle knock on the door.
“Enter!” Barked Miss Hapwood curtly.
The door opened and the two prefects gingerly entered the room. As they stood in front of the desk, Miss Hapwood looked closely at their appearance. Matron stood up and stood behind the desk next to her colleague.
“So where do I begin, ladies?” Said Miss Hapwood. “As prefects, you both occupy a position of trust. You are there to help and guide our junior girls, not to abuse and bully them.”
Jayne Turner looked at the two staff members behind the desk.
“Look, if this is about Patterson, she is a cheeky little sprog, and we were just making sure she followed the rules, Ma’am.”
“You were doing more than that. Matron here heard every word,” snapped Miss Hapwood. As she stood up to face the two prefects, her voice got louder as she spoke.
“There is a line somewhere girls between discipline and abuse. You two have not only crossed it but I doubt if you know where it is or if it even exists.”
“B-but…” Stammered Laura Smith.
“No buts, Smith,” snapped Miss Hapwood. “And you, Smith, should choose who you follow. Your choice in friends is going to cost you dear. You have changed for the worse, young lady. I really do not like the person you are turning into. I’m not going to beat about the bush, girls. I have already made my decision from what I have heard. Put simply, you two are bullies. I can’t stand bullies so I am going to deal with you in a most severe way, give you a taste of your own medicine, so to speak.”
The two prefects both gasped and looked at each other, while Miss Hapwood looked again at the notes on her desk.
“Right then, firstly you do not deserve to continue as prefects. Once I have dismissed you I want you to remove your personal effects from the prefects’ common room and then return your locker keys, badges and first sitting meal passes to Mrs Londsborough within the hour. Secondly, as you seem to enjoy bossing others about, you will both learn how it feels to be on the receiving end. For the next week I expect you both to be on the early morning cross country run with the more athletic members of our community.”
“But the run leaves at six-fifteen, Ma’am. It’s five miles; I’m not that fit, and Mrs Corner hates me.”
A wry smile came across Matron Taylor’s face.
“Well then, it’s a good job I’ll be taking the run for a few days, isn’t it Turner? Don’t worry, I’ll soon get you fit. Mrs Corner has hurt her knee so, for the time being, I shall be leading the morning run. Oh and I lead it in the style of my old Navy PT instructor. He was an ex-marine so I set a fast pace and expect you to keep up.”
Laura Smith began to cry. Miss Hapwood looked at her.
“I would think long and hard about who you follow from now on, Smith. You are lucky you are getting away with demotion and a week of early morning runs. You are dismissed, off you go.”
Laura quickly left the room. Miss Hapwood began to pace around her study. Her voice was low, soft and menacing.
“Right then, Turner, now we come to you. This isn’t the first time you and I have had words about you abusing your position and lording it over the junior girls, is it?”
Jayne spoke and tried to defend herself.
“N-no, Ma’am. I thought I was doing the right thing, that Patterson needs teaching Ma’am. She’s always breaking the rules. What’s the difference between me slippering the little sprog or you or Matron doing it?”
“It is how you do it, girl.” Snapped the deputy headmistress. “And your constant references to Patterson as a ‘sprog’ just show what contempt you seem to have for her. She is not your personal skivvy, there to do your domestic work, but a member of this school, no different from how you were not so long ago. Mine and Matron’s punishments are appropriate considered chastisements applied with just the right level of force. Where you, on the other hand, seem to beat poor Patterson for the fun of it. Perhaps if you had genuine concerns about Patterson’s general conduct you should have consulted me long ago. And not continued to take matters into your own hands.”
Jayne shuffled uncomfortably on the spot. Her eyes followed Miss Hapwood across the room as she opened a long black case that was on the top of the bookcase next to the kettle and took out a traditional yellow cane with a curved handle.
Miss Hapwood examined the cane for a moment before she swished it through the air. Jayne began to whimper softly as the deputy Headmistress looked at her again.
“Not my usual choice; I’d rather use the slipper but I’m afraid your actions leave me little option.”
“B-but no, Ma’am, pleases no, not that,” begged Jayne.
“A bully and his courage are soon parted, aren’t they Matron?” Said Miss Hapwood quietly. “I don’t recall having to cane you before, Turner. You have only got yourself to blame. Assume the position over that chair.”
Miss Hapwood used her cane to point at the chair Matron Taylor had been sitting in moments before. Jayne slowly took off her blazer and straw boater and took up her position behind the chair. As she began to lift up her gymslip, she hesitated for a moment.
“Come, come, Turner, hurry up,” snapped Miss Hapwood. “You wouldn’t stand Patterson taking so long to get in position, so why should we with you?”
Jayne bent over the back of the chair and gripped the seat tightly. Matron Taylor lifted the skirt of Jayne’s gymslip and shirt tail clear of her bottom.
“You should know the rules, Turner, you enforce them enough,” Snapped Miss Hapwood. “Those are not regulation knickers, so this caning will be on the bare. Take them down for her please, Matron.”
Matron Taylor lowered Jayne’s lace edged pink panties down her thighs and stood out of the way while Miss Hapwood tapped the cane lightly on Jayne’s bottom.
“Six strokes, I think,” said Miss Hapwood as she raised her cane.
Jayne screamed out and straightened up, grabbing her behind.
“Not a good start is it, Turner?” Retorted Miss Hapwood. “Get back into position this instant. We shall begin again. You are going to stay in position until I have given you six consecutive strokes to my satisfaction without interruption, so I suggest you start handling things a little better. Even that sprog Patterson can take a caning better than you.”
“Y-yes, Miss Hapwood,” snivelled Jayne as she bent back over the chair. Miss Hapwood waited for a moment while the Matron again lifted Jayne’s gymslip.
Then without a pause Miss Hapwood quickly delivered four hard strokes. Jayne screamed and cried with each impact. She gripped the chair tightly and begged the deputy headmistress to stop.
“It’s not nice, is it Turner? Being the victim,” said Miss Hapwood as she paused. “Last two coming, two nice hard ones.”
SWISH CRACK, SWISH CRACK.
“OWWW! Argh! No, please no more,” begged Jayne.
“Up you get, Turner. Hands on your head,” commanded Miss Hapwood. The sobbing ex prefect did as she was told and turned to face Miss Hapwood and the Matron.
“I hope you have learnt your lesson, young lady,” said Miss Hapwood quietly. “And if I ever hear again that you have been bullying any of the junior girls then your feet won’t touch the ground. You are dismissed.”
Jayne picked up her hat and blazer and gingerly left the room. As the heavy door closed Miss Hapwood looked at her old friend. She could sense Matron’s discomfort.
“Sorry about that, Meryl. I hope that hasn’t brought back too many bad memories of how I was with you. I realise you have witnessed my bad side again. The old nasty Jennifer Hapwood, it’s a side you haven’t seen of me since I was a prefect but it was the only way I could think of to show Turner what it was like to be on the receiving end of being bullied.”
“Yes it was rather like how I remember you. I hated you back then. Let’s hope it does the trick”
* * *
Jennifer Hapwood sat in Matron Taylor’s sitting room and sipped her coffee while Under-matron Tara Patterson scrolled down the screen on her laptop as she enthusiastically showed her former teacher and the Matron a Facebook page. Miss Hapwood, now retired, had called into the school for a visit during a walking holiday.
“I’m amazed at the uptake of this Facebook group, Ma’am,” began Tara. “I only started it for a bit of fun, a chance for a few of the girls from my year to have a bit of a gossip and a chat about the old days. It’s got four hundred and seventy members now. It’s mainly Sphinxes from my era but there are a few of the oldies from yours and Matron’s time on here too.”
“You still haven’t lost your cheek and character, have you Tara?” Smiled Miss Hapwood.
“No, Ma’am, I suppose I haven’t,” replied Tara. “In the tough times my humour was what helped me to get through.”
“That looks interesting,” said the Matron as she spotted a post about what the members had achieved since they left Queen Anne’s.
“That’s a good one,” said Tara with a smile. “There are a few names who have commented that you would recognise. It’s quite heartening to see those of us that were picked on have mostly gone on to do great things with our lives.”
“And the Bullies?” Asked Miss Hapwood.
“In dead end jobs some of them, but most don’t even feature. I suppose that says it all about who wins in the end.”
© Tara Patterson 2016